Did you know that one of the original ads for Northern bath tissue touted that it was “splinter free?” (And that was in 1935!) With its ultra soft modern sheets, designer fragrances, and tasteful hues, today’s toilet paper has come a long way from the more natural products our ancestors took to the privy:
Toilet paper, in case you’re wondering, was in use in China as early as the fourteenth century and it was made in 2′ x 3′ sheets. Everywhere else, and in China before then, people made use of what their environment offered. Leaves, mussel shells, corncobs were among the more common options. The Romans … used a sponge attached to the end of a stick and dipped in salt water. And yes, as you may have heard, in certain cultures the left hand was employed in the task of scatological hygiene, and in these cultures the left hand retains a certain stigma to this day.
Paper, of course, ultimately took the place of the more rudimentary original wipes. (The Farmers’ Almanac was even bound specifically for the convenience of the user.)
Paper ahas also historically held a higher place of honor in the bathroom – we’ve been inclined to assign the bathroom the nickname of “library” since the Middle Ages. And if you’re looking for more on the history of the loo itself, we suggest this slideshow from Scientific American.